The NBA Draft is this Thursday, and it provides a chance for the league’s scrub teams to improve themselves….Slightly. This draft could go down in infamy and join the 2000 crop on the Mt. Rushmore of pitiful drafts. As I’ve been watching old drafts on NBA TV the past few days, I started thinking about the first draft lottery that led to a generation of conspiracy theorists.
Watch the clip at the top, and you can see one of David Stern’s crooked lawyers throw the Knicks envelope on the side of the bin. It dented a corner, and it let Stern know which card to draw for the #1 pick. And just like that, professional basketball was back in New York. I mean, of all the ways to rig a draft lottery, was this the best they could come up with?
When the Bulls were gift wrapped Derrick Rose in ’08, the number combination for the Bulls was 11-7-9-13 gave a team with a 1.7% chance to win the lottery the #1 pick. I know, that lottery was fixed too. From envelopes to crazy number combinations, the league will always get what they want. Guess what? I’m fine with it. Big market teams carry the league, and you need stars in L.A., New York, & Chicago. It is what it is.
It’s beyond comical that the league’s immediate future was handled in such an amateur fashion in ’85. How did they not have a better system in place? The Pacers didn’t have a chance in hell at landing the top pick in ’85. I understand the league’s motives, however. The Celtics had two more finals runs in them, and the Lakers were entering the back 9 of their dynastic run. Who was going to carry the league going forward?
Michael Jordan was one year into his carer, and nobody could have imagined that he would develop into the greatest player of all-time. The league needed the Knicks to be a marquee attraction, and Ewing was the guy to make that happen. At least that was the sentiment throughout the NBA.
The implementation of the lottery was designed to keep teams from losing games on purpose to get a shot at Ewing. If only the other teams knew that they didn’t have a chance in hell.
The ’85 draft wasn’t a one player draft despite how teams conducted business at the end of the ’84-’85 season. Karl Malone was in that draft(rocking a gray sport coat & short white tie if you remember), as were players like Chris Mullin(5 seasons of 25 ppg+, & 5 all-star appearances), Xavier McDaniel, Charles Oakley, Detlef Schrempf, Joe Dumars(2 NBA titles), the guy who never got laid, AC Green, Wayman Tisdale, Benoit Benjamin, Michael Adams, & Terry Porter.
The problem for guys like Ewing & Malone was that Jordan dude kept them from winning titles. Malone won the league MVP twice(even though he shouldn’t have in ’97), went to 14 all-star games, & 4 all-defensive teams. Malone and Ewing are the poster boys for great players who were great, but couldn’t get past MJ.
Ewing lost to Jordan’s Bulls in ’89, ’91, ’92, ’93, & ’96. When MJ was trying to hit curve balls, it opened the door for Ewing to finally reach the finals and win his elusive title. The Knicks got to game 7 vs Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets in the ’94 finals, but then John Starks’ 2-18 happened. The championship window closed on Ewing that night.
As for Malone, his Jazz were stone walled by Jordan twice, and The Mailman became the first player to have his MVP award rescinded during a championship series.
I honestly couldn’t care less that the ’85 draft lottery was fixed. The league needed Ewing on the Knicks, and to this day, the draft lottery gives conspiracy theorists to the chance to rip the association for being crooked(see David Kahn after the Cavs won the #1 pick this year). I can’t help but think that the league has their say in certain years when it comes to the top pick, but it is usually for the betterment of the league. Would you be watching the Bulls if they hadn’t won the D Rose lottery? I doubt it. Thankfully, the league has gone to number combinations instead of just throwing envelopes against a drum. Imagine what people would say if that happened now.
Follow me on Twitter @Louie_Ruffolo8